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Full text of "Report of the chief of the Bureau of Safety in re investigation of an accident which occurred on the Philadelphia"

I (XA^Ca » ^ • VJ io .-AaJ (M)~i:L^r^\.jn^JC (J 9 



UNIV. OF FU LliS. 
PgCUMINTS DEPI 



[ A ftl ' 



U.S. DEPOWTORY 



INTERSTATE COMMERCE COMMISSION. 



REPORT OF THE CHIEF OF THE BUREAU OF SAFETY IN RE INVES- 
TIGATION OF AN ACCIDENT WHICH OCCURRED ON THE PHILADEL- 
PHIA & READING RAILWAY NEAR WOODMONT, PA., ON DECEMBER 
5, 1921. 

December 23, 1921. 
To THE Commission : 

On December 5, 1921, there was a head-end collision between two 
passenger trains on the Philadelphia & Reading Railway near Wood- 
mont, Pa., which resulted in the death of 20 passengers, 2 employees 
on duty, and 5 employees off duty, and injury to 65 passengers and 
5 employees. This accident was investigated in conjunction with 
representatives of the Public Service Commission of the Common- 
wealth of Pennsylvania, 

LOCATION AND METHOD OF OPERATION. 

This accident occurred on the Newton Branch of the New York 
Division. This branch leads off from the double track of the New- 
York iShort Line Branch at Cheltenham, Pa., and is single track from 
Cheltenham to Newtown, Pa., a distance of 16.6 miles. The move- 
ment of trains is governed by time-table and train orders, eastbound 
trains being superior by direction. In addition there is a block sys- 
tem, part of which is automatic and part manual ; from Cheltenham 
eastward to Bryn Athyn, a distance of 5.4 miles, the automatic block 
system is used, the signals being of the inclosed-disk type, while from 
Brjn Athyn to Newton, the end of the line, a manual block sig- 
nal system is in use. There are two telegraph block sections, one 
from Bryn Athyn to Churchville, a distance of 5.7 miles, while the 
other is from Churchville to Newtown, a distance of 5.5 miles. Be- 
tween Bryn Athyn and Churchville there is an intermediate non- 
block station, Southampton, where trains frequently meet. 

The first station west of Bryn Athyn is Huntingdon Valley, 0.7 
mile distant. At this station there are two automatic block signals, 
713 for eastbound trains and 713-A for Avestbound trains. Bryn 
Athyn station is located on the south side of the track, the telegraph 
office being in the station. Seventy-three feet east of the telegraph 



32136—22- 



2 INTERSTATE COMMERCE COMMISSION. 

office, and also located on the south side of the track, is a telegraph 
block signal. This signal is a two-position semaphore signal of the 
upper-quadrant type, having one arm; it governs eastbound trains 
only, a flag being used when there are train orders for w^estbound 
trains. About 515 feet east of this signal is the point of a switch which 
leads to a spur track extending westward paralleling the main track 
on the south and ending near the telegraph block signal ; this track 
was used as a passing siding. One hundred and seventy feet east 
of the point of the switch is located automatic bJock signal TIG, which 
is the first of the automatic block signals governing westbound trains. 
The track circuit controlling signal 713 begins at a point about 1,500 
feet east of signal 716. Between the point of the switch and signal 
716, the track passes over a steel bridge about 50 feet in length, span- 
ning a small stream. Beginning at Bryn Athyn station and proceed- 
ing eastward, there is a ^-degree curve to the left which extends to 
the point of the switch. From the point of the switch eastward the 
line is tangent for a considerable distance. Trees located on the 
north side of the right of way obstruct the view of signal 716 from 
Bryn Athyn station. 

The point of collision was about 1.3 miles east of Bryn Athyn, and 
0.8 mile west of Woodmont ; it occurred in the middle of a rock cut 
about 200 feet in length and having a maximum depth of 30 feet. 
The cut is located on a compound curve to the south about 1,000 
feet in length, having a maximum curvature of 7 degrees. On ac- 
count of this curve and cut, the range of vision was much restricted, 
and there was little opportunity for either engineman to see the 
opposing train. The Aveather was clear at the time of the accident, 
which occurred at about 7.55 a. m. 

DESCRIPTION. 

Westbound passenger and milk train Xo. 154, en route from New- 
town to Philadelphia, was in charge of Conductor Stout and Engine- 
man F. Eook, and consisted of engine 265 and 5 cars. It left New- 
town at 6.50 a. m., arrived at Churchville at 7.06 a. m., departed at 
7.12 a. m., 5 minutes late, and arrived at signal 716 at 7.28 a. m. The 
train was brought to a stop at signal 716. because it did not have suffi- 
cient time to make Huntingdon Valley, its time-table meeting point, 
for superior train No. 151, also because signal 716 was in the stop po- 
sition. A flagman Avas sent ahead and after a fcAv minutes, the train 
folloAving him, pulled doAvn to Bryn Athyn station and unloaded 
passengers. While at the station the crcAv received form ID train 
order No. 9, reading as foUoAvs: 

Disregard signal 716 and run carefully. Complete 7.31 a. ni. 

After discharging passengers and receiving the train order, a 
flagman Avas sent back, and train No. 154 backed up to a point about 



5.5mi. 



O.ami, 



O.Smi 




Signal 713-A 





Newtown (Block Station) 



ChurchviUe (Block Station) 
Southampton 

Woodmont 

Point ot Accident 

Paper Mills 

Signal 716 
Point ot Switch 
Spur Track 



Manual Block Signal 
ByrnAthyn (Block Station) 



Huntingdon VaUeyjSignal 713 



Not to Scale. 



DIAGRAM SHOWING RELATIVE LOCATION OF STATIONS, SIGNALS, ETC. 
TO POINT OF ACCIDENT. 



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in 2012 witln funding from 

University of Florida, George A. Smathers Libraries with support from LYRASIS and the Sloan Foundation 



http://www.archive.org/details/reportofchiefi1921t 



ACCIDENT NEAR WOODMONT, PA. 3 

100 feet east of signal 716 in order that train No. 151, upon arrival, 
might pull up and back into the spur track to meet train No. 154, 
the track not being long enough to hold the latter train. After 
train No. 151 had arrived and backed in on the spur track, train No. 
154 proceeded and passed Bryn Athyn station without stopping, ac- 
cording to Operator Clayton's block record, at 7.4G a. m. ; the dis- 
patcher's train sheet, however, showed the train departing at 7.44 
a. m., this time having been changed from 7.54 a. m. 

Westbound passenger train No. 156, en route from Newtown to 
Philadelphia, in charge of Conductor Smith and Engineman J. 
Rook, was made up in the following order: Engine 278, coaches 833, 
925, 1026, and 970, and combination coach and baggage car 490, all 
of wooden construction. The train left Newtown at 7.30 a. m. 
and at 7.41 a. m. arrived at Churchville, where the manual block 
signal was in the stop position. The conductor went to the telegraph 
office and received form 31 train order No. 11, reading as follows: 

No. 151 will meet No. 156 at Bryn Athyn. No. 151 take siding. Com- 
plete 7.44 a. m. 

The conductor delivered a copy of the order to the engineman, 
who read it; the block signal was cleared and the train departed, 
as shown by the records, at 7.45 a. m. It passed Woodmont and 
while running at a speed estimated to have been between 30 and 35 
miles an hour it collided with eastbound train No. 151. 

Eastbound passenger train No. 151, en route from Philadelphia 
to Newtown, was in charge of Conductor Evans and Engineman 
Yeakel. It was hauled by engine 167 and consisted of combination 
baggage and passenger car 489, of wooden construction, and coaches 
1093 and 1071, of steel-underframe construction. It left Philadel- 
phia at 6.48 a. m., and passed Fox Chase, 3.3 miles west of Hunting- 
don Valley, at 7.20 a. m., on time. At Huntingdon Valley, a non- 
telegraph station and its time-table meeting point with train No. 154, 
it found automatic block signal 713 in the stop position. A flag- 
man was sent ahead and after waiting a few minutes the train fol- 
lowed him to Bryn Athyn, arriving, the train sheet record shows, at 
7.42 a. m. Upon arrival at Bryn Athyn the telegraph block signal 
was found in stop position, while train No. 154 was standing on the 
main track east of signal 716. Conductor Evans sent word to his 
engineman to pull up and back in on the siding, but the engineman 
insisted that they get an order to do so. Conductor Evans went to 
the telegraph office and receiA'ed form 31 train order No. 11, read- 
ing as follows : 

No. 151 will meet No. 156 at Bryn Atbyn. No. 151 take siding. Complete 
7.46 a. m. 

After receiving the train order. Conductor Evans returned to his 
train and delivered a copy of the order to the engineman, while the 



4 INTERSTATE COMMERCE COMMISSION. 

oj^erator came out on the platform and assisted in handling bag- 
gage; the train then pulled ahead under flag protection and backed 
in on the siding. AVhen the switch was closed, train Xo. 154 de- 
parted; then the switch was again opened and train No. 151 pulled 
out, dejiarting, as shoAvn by the records, at 7.46 a. m. A stop was 
made at Paper Mills station, 0.7 mile east of Bryn Athjm, to let off 
some trackmen, after which the train proceeded and had gone about 
0.5 mile when, while running at a speed estimated to have been 25 
or 30 miles an hour, it collided with train No. 156. 

The impact forced both engines upward, engine 167, of train No. 
151, coming to rest bottom up, headed west and on top of its own 
tender, while engine 278, of train No. 156, was on top of engine 167. 
The combination car of train No. 151 was partially telescoped by the 
tender of engine 167. The forward end of the second car of train No. 
151 was also partially telescoped by the rear of the combination car, 
while the rear car remained on the rails and was only slightly dam- 
aged. The first coach of train No. 156 was completely telescoped by 
the tender of engine 278. The next car was partially telescoped at its 
forward end by the wreckage, while the rear truck remained on the 
rails. The third, fourth, and fifth cars of train No. 156 Avere practi- 
cally undamaged by the collision. The wreckage took fire immedi- 
ately, the first car of each train being completely destroyed. The fire 
spread quickly and destroyed the superstructures of the second and 
third coaches of train No. 156 and of the second coach of train No. 
151. It is probable that many of the deaths were the result of the 
fire that followed the collision. The employees on duty killed were 
the firemen of each train. 

SUMMARY OF EVIDENCE. 

Conductor Evans, of train No. 151, stated that upon arrival at 
Bryn Athyn he w^ent to the telegraph office and signed and received 
train order No. 11. He read it in a low tone of voice and was under 
the impression that it was an order to meet train No. 154 at Biyn 
Athyn. After receiving the order he walked to the engine and 
delivered a copy of it to the engineman, neither of them reading it 
to the other or making any comment whatever. His train then pulled 
down and backed in on the siding; after train No. 154 had departed 
the switch was opened, the train pulled out of the siding and pro- 
ceeded without a clearance card or other permission from the operator 
at Bryn Athyn, although the block signal was in the stop position. 
He stated it was his understanding that a train order was sufficient 
authoiity for a train to pass a block or train-order signal in the 
stop position Avithoiit a clearance card. He did not show his copy 
of the train order to his trainmen, as they were both attending to the 



ACCIDENT NEAR WOODMONT, PA. 5 

switches at tlie time, l)ut he put it uiidei- (lie bii<;gagemaster's box in 
the ba<!:o:age car, as was his eustoni, so that the ba*^gagemaster mij^^ht 
see it. 

P2n<rineman Yeakel stated that when Conductor Evans handed him 
the order he <»;lanced at it and ^ot the imi)ressi()n that it was an order 
to meet train No. 15-1: at Bryn Athyn. He hekl the order in his hand 
until hia train was in on the sidin<r: hiter he put it into his pocket. 
He saw the opposin*!; train just as the collision <)cciirre(*l, l)nt did not 
have time to api)ly the brakes. 

The statements made by Operator Clayton, on duty at Bryn 
xVthyn, are conflictinij: and vacillatino;. He stated that when train 
No. 151 arrived at Brj'n Athyn the conductor came into the tele- 
graph office and signed train order No. 11. He transmitted the 
signature to the train dispatcher, received ''complete" from him at 
7.4G a. m., and delivered the order to Conductor Evans, who read it 
to himself; Operator Clayton said he overheard him read it and said 
he read it correctly. FolloAving this. Operator Clayton went out 
on the platform and assisted in unloading baggage from train No. 
151. Operator Clayton's first statement was to the effect that lie 
did not report train No. 154 clear of the block to (^hurchville and 
that the operator at Church ville did not secure his permission to let 
train No. 156 enter the block. He also stated it was his understand- 
ing that the block Avas between Bryn Athyn and Churchville. ITpon 
subsequent examination, however, Operator Clayton stated that he 
cleared the block to Churchville as soon as the rear of train No. 154 
had crossed the bridge just west of signal 716 and that he gave the 
operator at Churchville permission to let train No. 156 proceed on 
a clear block, considering that the block for westbound trains ended 
at automatic signal 716. After train No. 154 had departed, he 
went out on the station platform to bring in a flag which he had 
used for a train-order signal, and it was at that time he discovered 
train No. 151 pulling out of the siding. He made an effort to signal 
the train to stop but was unsuccessful. Operator Clayton stated that 
had he waited until the rear of train No, 154 had actually passed his 
station before clearing the block to Churchville, he would probably 
have discovered that train No. 151 had departed contrary to their 
orders, and would then have refused to give the block to the operator 
at Churchville for train No. 156 to proceed and thus would have 
prevented the accident. The block record at Bryn Athyn clearly 
indicates that the entries relative to trains Nos. 151 and 154 had 
been altered. Operator Clayton was unable to explain these altera- 
tions except on the ground that he was busy selling tickets at the 
time and that the entries were not made at the time of the occurrence 
but from*memorv about an hour afterwards, at which time he was 
verv much excited and disturbed. 



6 INTERSTATE COMMEECE COMMISSION. 

Operator Tomlinson, on duty at Churchville, also made statements 
on two occasions which are conflicting. In his first statement Opera- 
tor Tomlinson said he permitted train No. 156 to proceed from his 
station, giving them a clear block signal, and at that time train No. 
154 had not been actually cleared of the block by the operator at 
Bryn Athyn, but that he had an understanding with the operator at 
Bryn Athyn that train No. 154 stood at Bryn Athj^n station ready 
to go. On the second occasion. Operator Tomlinson stated that upon 
the arrival of train No. 156 the conductor came to the office and 
signed train order No. 11, and that he transmitted the signature to 
the train dispatcher and received " complete " from him at 7.44 a. m. 
He immediately communicated with the operator at Bryn Athyn and 
ascertained that train No. 154 was clear of the block at Bryn Athyn ; 
the conductor of train No. 156 left the telegraph office, went to the 
engine and delivered a copy of the order to the engineman; while 
thus engaged, Operator Tomlinson cleared the train-order signal and 
the train departed immediately. 

At the investigation Operator Tomlinson produced a record which 
he identified as the original block record kept at his station. This 
record showed that train No. 154 cleared the block at Bryn 
Athyn at 7.45 a. m. ; the figure " 5," however, bore indications 
of alteration and, upon questioning. Operator Tomlinson ad- 
mitted that he had changed the clearing time from 7.46 a. m. 
to 7.45 a. m. for the purpose of makng the record 7.45 a. m. on 
the book. The block record produced by Operator Tomlinson 
was contained in a new record book, the first entry being for 
December 1. Operator Tomlinson was later required to produce 
the book containing the record previous to December 1, and upon 
examination of that record it was apparent that several pages of 
the book subsequent to November 30 had been removed. In the old 
record book only three columns were filled in, the train number, and 
the arriving and departing time of trains, while in the new book the 
columns headed " Train No.," " Signals displayed," " Entered block 
in rear," "Arrived," " Entered block," " Reported to block station 
in advance," " Clear block reported to station in rear," and "Advance 
block reported clear," were all filled in. Upon further examination, 
Operator Tomlinson admitted that the book which he had identified 
during his previous examination as the original record was not the 
original, but a copy which he made for the purpose of this investiga- 
tion, and that the copy contained additional information not shown 
by the original record and that the original record had been de- 
stroyed by him. He assumed full responsibility for making these 
cKangea and for destroying the original record, stating that he acted 
entirely upon his own initiative and without suggestion or instruc- 
tion from any person. Operator Tomlinson stated that his office 



ACCIDKNT NKAR WOODMONT, PA. 7 

was closed when standard time was transmitted by telegraph and 
as a result he seldom received standard time; he did occasionally 
compare his watch with trainmen Avho had standard time. He was 
unable to say whether his watch was correct on the day of the 
accident. 

Conductor Stout, of train No. 154, stated that his train passed 
Bryn Athyn station at about 7.48 a. m. He also stated it was his 
understanding that the block for westbound trains ended at Bryn 
Athyn station. However, upon cross-examination by General Super- 
intendent Fisher, he retracted this statement and said the block 
ended at signal 716. Engineman F. Rook, of train No. 154, stated 
it was his understanding that the rear of a westbound train would 
have to pass Bryn Athyn station before the block could properly be 
cleared to Churchville. 

Engineman J. Rook, of train No. 156, stated that the block signal 
at Churchville was cleared as the conductor was walking down the 
platform with the train order. He did not recall the time his train 
left Churchville, but said it passed Southampton 3 minutes late. 
This would make train No. 156 passing Southampton at 7.49 a. m. ; 
the schedule time from Churchville to Southampton is 5 minutes, 
which would make train No. 156 departing from Churchville at 7.44 
a. m. Engineman Rook also stated that when he receives a clear 
block signal at Churchville he understands that the block is clear 
to Bryn Athyn station and not to signal 716 only. He stated that 
he saw the engine of train No. 151 when it was about 40 feet distant 
and that he made an application of the brakes just before the col- 
lision occurred. 

Brakeman Fulmore, of train No. 156, stated that when his train 
Avas leaving Churchville he looked at his watch and it was then be- 
tween 7.45 a. m. and 7.46 a. m. 

Train Dispatcher Rich stated that when train No. 154 arrived at 
Bryn Athyn the conductor reported signal 716 in the stop position. 
At that time one of his telegraph wires was in trouble east of New 
York Branch Crossing, and from this he concluded that the entire 
signal circuit from signal 716 to Huntingdon Valley was out of 
order, and to avoid delay to train No. 156 which would result from 
train No. 154 being required to flag to Huntingdon Valley, he issued 
train order No. 9, for train No. 154 to disregard signal 716. He ad- 
mitted, however, that this signal condition might arise with train 
No. 151 occupying the track circuit between signals 713 and 716; 
also if train No. 154 entered the track circuit east of signal 716 and 
was unable to proceed farther than Bryn Athyn on account of time- 
table inferiority, it Avould be necessary for train No. 151 to flag from 
Huntingdon Valley to Bryn Athyn. 
S2186— 22 2 



8 INTERSTATE COMMERCE COMMISSION. 

Signal Supervisor Steele stated that on the morning of December 
5, signal 716 was reported as being out of order, but inspection by the 
signal maintainer disclosed no trouble and that the signal was work- 
ing properly. 

CONCLUSIONS. 

This accident was caused by the failure of Conductor Evans and 
Engineman Yeakel, of train No. 151, to obey train order No. 11, 
directing them to meet train No. 156 at Bryn Athyn ; also by their 
failure to observe manual block-signal rules in leaving Bryn Athyn 
with the block signal in the stop position without securing a clearance 
card. Contributing to this was the failure of the operator at either 
Bryn Athyn or Churchville, or both, properly to operate the manual 
block system. 

It is probable that the failure on the part of Conductor Evans and 
Engineman Yeakel to obey the instructions contained in train order 
No. 11 was caused by their anticipating the contents of the order 
and acting upon that impression rather than upon the instructions 
contained in the order. The evidence indicates that when Engineman 
Yeakel was requested to pull up and back in on the siding, he would 
not do so until he received an order directing him to make the move- 
ment, and when he did receive the train order he assumed that tlie 
order was the one which he had requested. General operating rule 
210, with reference to train ordere, reads in part : 

The copy for each engineman must be delivered to him personally by the con- 
ductor or pilot, and the engineman must read it aloud to the person delivering it. 

General Instructions, Rules for Conductors, rule 1003, reads in 
part: 

On passenger trains they will show all orders to trainmen. * * * 

Had Conductor Evans and Engineman Yeakel complied with these 
rules, their mistake would undoubtedly have been discovered. This 
accident again calls attention to the fallability of the human element 
and emphasizes the inherent danger in the operation of trains by 
the train-order system. 

It was no oversight on the part of Conductor Evans that train 
No, 151 left Bryn Athyn without a clearance card on the block sig- 
nal. According to his understanding of the rules the train order 
he had received gave his train the right to proceed without a clearance 
card with the block signal in the stop position. If he had had a 
proper understanding of the rules, immediatelj^ after the passage of 
train No. 154 he would have ascertained the condition of the block 
and thus would have been checked on the misreading of the train 
order. 

The evidence is conclusive that train No. 156 left Churchville on 
a clear block signal when train No. 154 still stood on the main track 



AC'CinENT NEAR WOODMONT, PA. 9 

at signal 716 with the roar of its train east of the signal. Train No. 
151 received " complete " to train order No. 11 at 7.46 a. m., after 
which they handled baggage, pulled up and backed in on the siding 
before train No. 154 could even pass signal 716; the order to train 
No. 156 was completed at 7.44 a. m. and the train departed from 
Churchville shortl}' thereafter. There can be no dispute as to the 
time the orders were completed by the train dispatcher, as both 
times were taken from the same clock. 

The statements of Operators Clayton and Tomlinson are so con- 
flicting and the condition of their block records such that state- 
ments made by thorn are of little if nnj value. In view of these con- 
flicting statements it is impossible to determine whether the operator 
at Bryn Ath3^n cleared the block to Churchville before the operator 
at Churchville permitted train No. 156 to proceed on a clear block, or 
whether the operator at Bryn Athyn did not clear the block and the 
operator at Churchville let train No. 156 go on a clear block signal, 
knowing that the block was still occupied by train No. 154. 

The investigation of this accident disclosed that in this instance 
all of the safeguards provided for the operation of trains were 
rendered ineffective by errors on the part of employees involved, 
misunderstanding of operating rules, and improper practices which 
had grown up in service. 

The train-order system failed due to the members of the train 
crew of train No. 151 misreading or neglecting to read the train 
order establishing the meeting point. 

The manual block-signal system failed, due to the crew of train 
No. 151 departing from Bryn Athj'n without authority when the 
signal was at stop, and due to train No. 156 being admitted to the 
block under a clear signal when the block was occupied. 

In addition to the specific failures of the block system which led 
directly to this accident, investigation disclosed a general laxity in 
the observation of block signal rules. General rule 317-B, which 
jjrescribes the method of blocking trains, is followed by this note : 

Note. — 317-B is for absolute block for opposing movements and permissive 
block for following movements on the same track. 

Notwithstanding the requirement that a positive block must be 
maintained for opposing trains, the time-table provides for regular 
meeting points between schedule trains at Southampton, an inter- 
mediate nonblock station located in the block section between Bryn 
Athyn and Churchville, and opposing trains are permitted to enter 
the block on a clearance or a caution card. 

Eule 317-B also reads in part : 

A train must not be admitted to a block which is occupied by a passenger 
train, except as provided in Rule 331, or by special order. 



10 INTERSTATE COMMERCE COMMISSION. 

(Kule 331 provides for movement in case of failure of telegraph 
line.) 

Train Dispatcher Rich stated it was his understanding that train 
No. 156 might enter the block at Churchville with train No. 154 still 
within the block, provided train No. 156 received a caution card. 

The incomplete condition of the block records at both Churchville 
and Bryn Athyn, together with the fact that the time was not entered 
on the record at Bryn Athyn until an hour after, are further evidence 
of the loose method of operating the manual block-signal system. 

Circular No. 403, dated May 21, 1914, putting the block system 
into effect in this territory, provides that " Manual telegraph block 
system will be in operation between Brjai Athyn and Newtown." 
It also provides that this telegraph block sj'^stem is in effect at — 

Bryn Athyn 6.30 a. ni. to 7.20 p. m. 

Churchville 6.15 a.m. to 2.35 p.m. 

And 3.35 p.m. to 7.35 p.m. 

Newtown . 6.00 a.m. to 2.35 p.m. 

And 3.35 p.m. to 7.35 p.m. 

It further provides that " In forwarding trains signalmen will be 
governed by rule 317-B." Under this circular it appears that the 
manual block section for eastbound trains begins, and for westbound 
trains ends, at Bryn Athyn station, and so far as can be ascertained 
in that respect has not been subsequently modified, and w\as so under- 
stood by the employees generally at the time of the accident. Not- 
withstanding this, it is claimed by officials of the Philadelphia & 
Reading Railway that while the manual block section for eastbound 
trains begins at Bryn Athyn station, the manual block section for 
westbound trains ends at signal 716, some 750 feet east of the station, 
and that it is proper for the operator at Bryn Athyn to clear the 
block to Churchville as soon as the rear of a westbound train has 
passed signal 716. 

There was no uniform or clear understanding as to whether the 
siding at Bryn Athyn was within the limits of Bryn Athyn station 
or whether it was within the block section between Bryn Athyn and 
Churchville, and w^hether or not it was necessary for train No. 151 
to have a clearance or a caution card before passing the block signal 
to back into the siding. 

Conductor Evans was under the impression that a train order 
alone was sufficient authority for a train to pass a train-order signal 
or a block signal in the stop position. 

The train-order signal at Bryn Athyn is not clearly defined, and 
the evidence is conflicting as to whether a flag should be used for 
eastbound trains or whether the block signal should be us?d. 

Train No. 154 was given a train order to disregard signal 716 
upon the assumption of the train dispatcher that the signal was out 



ACCIDENT NEAR WOODMONT, PA. 11 

of order, when as a matter of fact it properly indicated there was 
a train in the block. This order created a dangerous situation, and 
was given apparently for no other purpose than to avoid delaying 
train movements. A similar order was also issued to train No. 
156, but was not delivered. 

There does not appear to have been any system that required 
employees to be reexamined on the rules at regular intervals; some 
of them liad not been examined since 1914, and the train dispatcher 
involved had never been examined. 

The investigation disclosed extremely lax supervision by respon- 
sible officers over the conduct of employees in the observance of 
ordinary safeguards to train movement. There was no system of 
instruction of emploj'ees to provide a correct and uniform under- 
standing of the rules, nor any effort on the part of responsible officers 
to correct existing operating practices which were contrary to rules 
and a constant menace to the traveling public. The laxity with 
which the manual block system was operated on this line is a condi- 
tion which could have been easily discovered had any attempt been 
made by officials to check it up. 

The practice of authorizing trains to disregard automatic signal 
indications frequently upon trivial occasions merely to preA'ent delay, 
is dangerous, tends to lead to a disrespect of all automatic block 
signals, and can not be too strongly condemned. 

The manual telegraph block system between Bryn Athyn and 
Churchville is in effect only during the daytime, and this is tempo- 
rarily suspended at Churchville and Newtown from 2.35 p. m. until 
3.35 p. m. each day. An analysis of the train movements between 
Bryn Athyn and Newtown for the months of August to November, 
inclusive, indicates an average daily movement of 17 passenger trains 
and 1.7 other trains. The manual block system which is nominally 
in effect on this line is entirely inadequate, in view of practices dis- 
closed by this investigation, to furnish the required protection; and 
while not involved in this accident the order issued by the dispatcher 
nullified the protection which automatic signal 716 was intended to 
furnish. 

To prevent the recurrence of accidents of this character it is 
recommended that measures be taken promptly by the carrier to 
insure that emploj'ees properly understand and obey operating rules 
which are provided to safeguard train operation, and that the car- 
rier be required to install on this line a complete automatic train- 
control system. 

All of the cars involved in the accident except the two last cars of 
train No. 151 were of wooden construction and were equipped with 
the Pintsch gas lighting system. It is probable that many of the 
lives lost in this accident were the result of the fire which followed 



12 INTERSTATE COMMERCE COMMISSION. 

the collision. There is no direct evidence that the fire was aggra- 
vated by the Pintsch gas which was present in the cars, although it 
is Dossible that such was the case. 

Had all-steel equipment been in service on these trains, it is prob- 
able that the casualties resulting from the fire would have been pre- 
vented and those resulting from the collision would have been much 
lessened. At the present time, the passenger-car equipment of the 
Philadelphia & Reading Railway consists of 205 all-steel cars, 90 with 
steel underframes, 289 wooden cars in actual service and 217 wooden 
cars surplus. Officials stated it is their policy to keep the steel and 
steel-under frame cars in through service, while wooden cars are con- 
fined to branch-line service. The Philadelphia & Reading Railway 
has not purchased any wooden passenger cars for a number of years. 
Prior to the war, it had adopted a well-defined program for the pur- 
chase of approximately 50 steel cars per year, but this program was 
discontinued during the war. Since then it is stated that the financial 
condition of the railroad has been such as not to enable it to continue 
the purchase of this type of new equipment. At the present time, 
however, they have inquiries out for additional steel equipment which 
they hope to purchase in the near future. In this connection it seems 
not improper to observe that a considerable financial burden has been 
imposed upon the railroad, as the result of this accident, for which 
no return is possible. The amount of money which thus will be ex- 
pended would probably have enabled the railroad to continue its 
prewar j)rogram for the purchase of steel equipment, as well as to 
introduce other measures of safety for the protection of the traveling 
public. That steel passenger cars afford much greater protection to 
the traveling public has been repeatedly demonstrated, and this is 
particularly true when the danger of fire is considered ; that the offi- 
cials of the Philadelphia & Reading Railway recognize the greater 
security afforded by steel equipment is apparent by their own state- 
ments. 

It is recommended that the Philadelphia & Reading Railway at 
the earliest practicable date provide steel cars for carrying pas- 
sengers, and that the use of wooden cars ahead of, or between steel 
or steel-underframe cars, in passenger trains, be discontinued. 

Conductor Evans entered the service August 6, 1902, as a switch- 
ing conductor, was promoted to passenger conductor in 1912, passed 
examination on the operating rules May 22, 1919, and at the time 
of the accident had been on duty 9 hours 17 minutes, prior to which 
he had been off duty over 12 hours. 

Engineman Yeakel entered the service in 1898, and was promoted 
to passenger engineman in 1904. There is no record of his last 
examination on operating rules. At the time of the accident he 



A(^CIDENT XKAIl WOODMOXT, PA. 13 

had been on duty 9 hours 47 minutes, prior to Avhich he had been 
off duty 11 hours 43 minutes. 

Operator CLayton entered the service as station agent in 1902, was 
examined on the rules in 1914, and at the time of the accident had 
been on duty 1 hour 25 minutes, prior to which he was off duty 15 
hours. 

Operator Tomlinson entered the service as agent in 1907, was 
examined on tlie operating rules in 1914, and at the time of the 
accident he had been on duty 2 hours 40 minutes, prior to which 
he had been off duty 15 hours. 

Eespectfully submitted, ' 

W. P. Borland, 
Chiefs Bureau of Safety. 




WASHINGTON : GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE : 1922 



UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 



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